On May, 8th, Radio City Music Hall in New York City will be alive with college football’s finest as the NFL’s higher-ups pick through the 2014 NFL Draft. While schools like Texas, Alabama and USC are historically known for producing NFL talent, there are several players from Oregon and Oregon State that could be hearing their names called during the draft.
Oregon Ducks: If Marcus Mariota, Hroniss Grasu and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had left, Oregon would see these three go in the draft as well. But Mariota, Grasu and Ekpre-Olomu are returning for another season. Grasu and Ekpre-Olomu both possess first round talent.
De’Anthony Thomas; running back, kick returner: Thomas is impossible to catch in space, period. Once the ball is in his hands, he is the fastest player on the field. The problem has always been getting him in space. Thomas is only 5’9” and 176lbs and missed four games this season with an ankle injury. Besides that, he has no history of injuries. He recorded 5,345 total yards while at Oregon, third in school history behind LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. Thomas excelled as a kick returner for the Ducks, and there is no reason why he could not bring that skill to the next level.
Josh Huff; wide receiver: In four years at Oregon, Huff accumulated 139 catches for 2,262 yards and 23 touchdowns (all of which are within the top-10 in Oregon history). He is often overlooked in what is a deep receiver class, but Huff has great ball skills and has been nothing but reliable for his entire career at Oregon. At 5’11” Huff lacks the size to be a top wide receiver, but he could turn out to be a Wes Welker style player in the slot if a team picks him up.
Tony Washington; defensive end/outside linebacker: With Dion Jordan gone, the Ducks needed an elite pass rusher. Washington finished the season with seven sacks and 60 tackles, anchoring a surprisingly good Oregon defense. At 6’3” and 244lbs, Washington has good size for a pass rusher. His 4.63 40-yard dash speed is promising. There are a lot of good linebackers in this draft class, though, so Washington is going to need a good NFL Combine to stand out.
Colt Lyerla; tight end: Despite being let go from the Ducks, Lyerla was an elite talent during his playing career at Oregon. At 6’5” and 246lbs, Lyerla has great size for a tight end to go along with top end speed; he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds. He missed a couple of games in 2011 with a leg injury, but had no other health problems while at Oregon. His off the field issues have been a huge concern, however. If he wants to play in the NFL, he’ll have to prove that he’s a changed man, a situation similar to that of Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. But some teams might be willing to pick him up with a late pick. Elite level tight ends are a hot commodity in the NFL.
Oregon State: The Beavers will see the return of Sean Mannion next year. Mannion led the Beavs to the third ranked passing offense among BCS teams.
Brandin Cooks; wide receiver: The Fred Biletnikoff Award winner is an elite combination of the ability to get open, and the ability to score once he has the ball. Many people compare Cooks to Steve Smith because of his short stature and toughness. He spent the entirety of this season as the top target in a potent passing offense, averaging 9.8 receptions per game and 133 yards per game. Cooks is easily a first round talent and should see success at the next level.
Scott Crichton; defensive end: Crichton was a standout on an otherwise underwhelming defense for the Beavers this year. He spent a lot of this season in the faces of quarterbacks. The 6’3”, 260lb defensive end is able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds, a time that is very good for a big defensive end. Crichton fits well in a 4-3 defense, but will need to bulk up a lot to fit in a 3-4 defense. If he has a good showing at the combine, Crichton could be taken on the first day of the NFL Draft.
Tyler Anderson; fullback: Despite Oregon State having a forgettable running attack, Anderson proved to be a great blocker for the Beavers. At 5’10” and 223lbs, Anderson’s stocky frame is able to get in the way of defenders. Anderson also has a knack for making the most of his opportunities. Despite having only 17 touches this season, Anderson was able to gain a first down or a touchdown on 12 of them. He has very good hands for a fullback.
Fans of the Ducks and Beavers know that there is NFL level talent in Oregon, and the nation is starting to find that out as well. We are all looking forward to see our local heroes represent Oregon in the NFL next year.